NASCAR driver Noah Gragson has been suspended indefinitely after he “liked” a meme on Instagram on Saturday that made light of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis while in police custody on Memorial Day 2020.
Legacy Motor Club announced Tuesday that it would replace Gragson, 25, in the seat of its No. 42 race car with driver Mike Rockenfeller, 39. The Athletic, a sports website, reported Tuesday that sources “close to the decision” said Legacy’s team would part ways with Gragson.
The meme at issue featured an image of Floyd’s head on a picture of Sebastian, the talking and singing crab of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” fame.
The caption, “UNDER DA KNEE,” alluded to both Sebastian’s signature song “Under the Sea” and the nature of Floyd’s death after a white police officer put his knee on the black man’s neck for over 9 minutes as Floyd lay on the pavement. The incident sparked protests and riots across the country that summer before the four officers involved went to trial.
Gragson had been set to drive this weekend for Legacy Motor Club in NASCAR’s Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.
Legacy issued a statement on Twitter saying that Gragson’s actions “do not represent the values of [the] team.”
NASCAR retweeted Legacy Motor Club’s statement Saturday and issued its own in support of Legacy’s decision to suspend Gragson indefinitely.
The Member Conduct section of the 2023 NASCAR Rule Book states that member activity that could result in a fine or indefinite suspension includes a:
statement and/or communication made public (including social media platforms) that demeans, criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.
Gragson apologized Saturday via Twitter, expressing disappointment in what he called his “lack of attention and actions on social media.”
It’s not clear exactly when Gragson “liked” the meme and how it was flagged. The Daily Signal sought comment from other members of Gragson’s team to get his recollection of the events, but none had responded by publication time.
Disgruntled employees took a similar dispute over social media “likes” to court after being fired by the Sheriff’s Office in Hampton, Virginia, for “liking” Facebook posts by their boss’ opponent in an upcoming election.
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